Many of us spend a lot of time in meetings, and many of those meetings lack a clear purpose or direction, without a sense of who owns what.
Our meetings need a fine-tuning. Microsoft estimates that workers spend an average of about 5.6 hours per week in meetings. A recent Wall Street Journal article described a survey by the London School of Economics and Harvard Business School that looked at what 500 CEOs spend their time on each day. In one sample, 65 CEOs spend about 18 hours of the total 55 hours in their work week in meetings.
If your meetings are in need of a spring cleaning, here are some ideas to help you get started:
• Have everyone stand up: Nothing saps enthusiasm and causes creative inertia like slumping into a comfy conference room chair. Have everyone standing around the table, each prepared to offer his or her updates and ideas.
• Sweep out PowerPoint: The most painful words you might ever hear from a presenter are, “I’m not going to read every slide verbatim,” and then he proceeds to do just that. The problem with PowerPoint is that people tend to lose ownership of the content and the audience tends to focus on the slides, rather than the person. If you need to use PowerPoint, keep the text to a minimum, and use dynamic graphics and bold images to convey your points.
• Declutter the agenda: If the scope of the meeting is too big, and there are too many people involved, chances are you won’t accomplish everything you set out to do, and you’ll end up wasting valuable time. Keep the agenda very focused. Pick five priorities your team needs to accomplish.
• Be punctual: In an episode of “Mad Men,” Herman “Duck” Phillips tells his team that anyone who shows up for a meeting after him is late. You might not need to go to this length, but set an expectation of everyone on the team that they should be on time and ready to be a contributor.
• Go on an adventure: How many “brainstorming sessions” have you been to where everyone gathers at a conference table and no one seems to have any new ideas or creative energy? This is because the surroundings are too familiar. Have your team gather at a new restaurant, park, museum or other source of creative inspiration and energy.
• Allow ideas to fully blossom: Don’t allow any “wallflowers.” Make sure everyone has something meaningful that they can bring to the table. It doesn’t matter what everyone’s position or title is. Good ideas come from everywhere and anyone. Encourage participation from everyone and don’t discount any ideas.
• Don’t be afraid to cancel: This might be the biggest meeting time saver of all. Just because a recurring meeting is in your calendar doesn’t mean you absolutely need to stick to it. Take a hard look at the agenda and think about what you’ll actually accomplish by having a meeting, as opposed to picking up the phone and having a one-off conversation with two or three people.
There are plenty of ways to keep meetings from being a time drain. It only takes a few slight adjustments.
Cullather is founder and managing partner of inVNT, a live events agency that enhances and supports brand messaging for some of the world’s largest companies and trade associations. Contact Cullather at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.invnt.com.